Wanna Feel Good About the World? Go on a Cruise

One thing I try to do as a dad is introduce my kids to new stuff all of the time. New food, new places, new experiences, and new people. To me, I feel that’s a great way to learn more about what this great world has to offer.

But here’s a startling statistic. Did you know that close to 40% of Americans have never moved away from their hometowns? It’s hard for people to identify with different cultures, races, or ethnicities if you see the same people everyday, right?

The best way to become more accepting and tolerant of people that are different from us are to enter their environments and see how they live. In doing so, we’ll realize that we are all way more similar than we are different.

That’s why I was so happy when Carnival recently offered to take my family on an 8-day Caribbean cruise in January. Our travels took us to the Dominican Republic, Aruba, Grand Turk, and Bonaire — and we met a lot of interesting people, but it’s not just about those locations. My family had the opportunity to meet a lot of amazing people from all walks of life on the beautiful and brand new Carnival Vista as well.

First off, Carnival has a lot of diverse restaurants from steakhouses, Asian cuisine, Italian at Cucina del Capitano (my personal favorite), and much more. My kids were able to experience fine dining from different cultures without leaving the ship.

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And as far as the people are concerned, my daughters enjoyed dancing, swimming, eating, and playing with people from various backgrounds while on the ship. Did my girls care that those people didn’t look like them? Of course not. They just wanted to have a good time and that’s exactly what they did. It was beautiful to witness.

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I certainly don’t have the answers to all of the world’s problems, but I feel that one potential fix is to ensure our kids hang out with as many people as possible who may not look like them, try new foods, and go to new places. Carnival checked all of the boxes for us on our recent cruise and we are so thankful for that.

This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind. Head on over.

Carnival — Ask The Dad

In the interest of full disclosure, when Carnival offered to take my family on an 8-day cruise, I didn’t hesitate to say “yes” at first. We were in desperate need of a vacation and traveling to the eastern Caribbean seemed like the best idea ever.

But if you’ve never cruised before, I’m sure you have questions about what it will be like. Especially if you have kids, like me.

No worries, my friend. That’s why I created this “Ask the Dad” post where you can ask some of your most frequently asked questions.

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 #1 – Will my kids like the food? My kids are picky eaters. What if I couldn’t find something for them to eat? Needless to say, that was the least of my worries. Carnival doesn’t mess around when it comes to food options because there is literally something for everyone. If I had to attach a percentage to it, I’d say that 75% of the time we were awake on the ship, we were putting some yummy goodness into our mouths.

#2 – What if my kids get bored or stir-crazy on the ship? On sea days I erroneously thought we would just sit in our room and watch television. I couldn’t be more wrong. Carnival ships are just like floating cities. After walking around for a little while I realized that we would actually have more fun on the ship than visiting the exotic locations we were traveling to (and that’s saying a lot, trust me). More on this later.

#3 – Will there be enough stuff for my kids to do on the ship? Absolutely. There were so many options that I thought my kids would explode from excitement. There was a video game arcade, an amazing waterpark, a Seuss At Sea breakfast where their favorite Dr. Seuss characters came to life, interactive game shows, 24-hour ice cream and pizza, etc. My daughters absolutely lost their minds due to the amount of fun they had.

 #4 – What can parents do for childcare when we want to have some adult fun? Thankfully there’s Camp Carnival to help with that. It’s like a summer camp and the kids are divided into different groups (2-5 years, 6-8 years, and 9-11 years) to engage in age-specific activities ranging from art, movies, games, reading, toys, and more. Not to mention, they even offer nighttime care as well. It’s the perfect option for parents who need a quick getaway (and let’s face it, all of us need that every now and then).

#5 – What if I don’t like crowds? I was extremely concerned about the ship feeling claustrophobic. If I feel cramped in my own condo, how would I handle cruising? Well, that wasn’t an issue at all. As mentioned earlier, I had more fun on the ship than I did in the actual spots I visited and I didn’t feel crowded at all. Carnival does a great job of spacing everything out and I never experienced a long line/wait for anything. It’s the perfect little floating city.  

Do you want to know what the worst part of this cruise was? The end. My oldest daughter was devastated when I told her we would have to go back home and deal with the hustle and bustle of life back in Southern California (which to her, means kindergarten and Daddy’s cooking).

If you have any additional questions about cruising, be sure to reach out because I have the answers. Until then, I’ll be daydreaming about our next Carnival cruise.

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This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind. Head on over.

 

5 Reasons Why Cruising is Better Than a Traditional Vacation

In the interest of full disclosure, when Carnival offered to take my family on an 8-day cruise, I was 100% onboard (cruising pun completely intended). I was overworked and I needed a vacation in the worst way.

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All Work Just Doesn’t Work

By now you know that I have the Daddy Doin’ Work nickname, but I didn’t come up with it by accident. Not to pat myself on the back here, but I’m a ridiculously hard worker. But guess what? I think I have that in common with you, too.

Here’s some not-so-breaking news for you: Americans are overworked.

In a recent survey, over 50% of workers in the U.S. felt burned out. Additionally, many employees don’t take vacation time that’s offered to them by leaving a combined 429 million unused paid vacation days behind a year.

That’s just crazy.

But is it, really?

We live in such a hypercompetitive society that many parents feel as if they need to be connected to the office or risk being left behind.

Greg from Atlanta shared his thoughts with me: “I feel as if I have to respond to emails within a reasonable amount of time or else people will feel like I’m slacking. Even if those emails come in the middle of the night.”

Liz from San Diego shared her thoughts as well: “I want to be super mom and a super employee, but I’m failing miserably at both because I’m always so tired.”

The problem is that always being connected at the office leaves us feeling less connected at home. I know this is true because I lived it. I felt that I was being pulled in so many different directions and I couldn’t say “no” to anyone. It was always, “Sure, I can do that,” when inside I was like, “I have no clue how I’m going to do that.”

I became exhausted and irritable, and my family knew I wasn’t myself. That’s when I pumped the brakes to realize what is truly important – and it meant spending time with the people I love the most. My daughters are growing up so fast and I realized that my stress was taking away from my joy in raising them.

What did I do to fix it?

I went on a vacation – specifically, a Carnival cruise. Yep, I actually used real vacation time. I didn’t check email or obsess about the work that would be waiting for me when I returned. I just focused on having a blast and recharging my batteries.

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Not only did I have a great time with my family, but I felt that I reconnected with myself. Sometimes all it takes is to separate yourself from the craziness of life to learn more about your priorities.

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We’re all going to die someday, and when that time comes do you think you’ll wish you spent more time at the office or more time with the people you love? Exactly.

If you’re offered time off from work, I urge you to take it. Not only will it make you a better employee and parent, it will make you a happier employee and parent.

Not to mention, time is the only resource we can’t get back once it’s spent. Don’t waste it by trying to be a “hero” at the office by skipping out on vacation time. Instead be a hero with the little ones who love you more than anything.

Because at the end of the day, the only thing our kids want us to spend on them is our time.

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This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind. Head on over.

Everyone is a friend on a cruise

Carnival recently offered to take my family on an 8-day cruise to the western Caribbean, and it was amazing. As is the case with Carnival, the food was excellent, the service was kind and professional, and the Carnival Freedom is a top-notch ship with lots of great perks.

But there’s one underreported aspect of cruising that needs to be talked about more:

Everyone is really cool and super-duper friendly. Here are a few examples of that.

#1 – Grady.

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He’s retired from the Air Force and he’s cruised on Carnival more times that he can remember. We struck up conversation while we ordered some yummy pizza (which is available 24 hours a day). His advice to me was to soak up every good moment of life – and that’s why he vacations with his family so often.
If anyone deserves to spend time enjoying life, it’s someone who served our great nation. Much respect to you, Grady.

#2 – Nick.

Nick was traveling with his girlfriend Liza and we struck up conversation at the bar. He was wearing a Vail, CO T-shirt and I was rocking a kale T-shirt (you know, because I love eating healthy and all). After talking for about ten minutes, he said, “Hey, let’s trade shirts.”

Wait, what? Trade T-shirts with a dude I just met?

“Sure! Why not?”

And that’s exactly what we did.

Before.

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After.

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I mean, would something like this happen anywhere else in the world but on a cruise ship filled with really happy people? Probably not.

Nick, if you’re reading this – I hope you know that I think I won on that deal. That Vail shirt is extremely comfortable.

From kale to Vail, baby.

#3 – My daughters

The “everyone is a friend” theme wasn’t just for grown folks. My daughters love to dance and whenever music played in the lounge after dinnertime, my girls were there getting down to some awesome live music.

On one particular evening, two random little girls from different families joined my daughters and they danced while holding hands. It was probably the cutest thing I’ve seen in a long time.

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There are so many things that are great about cruising, but meeting great people who want to share their happiness with you is probably one of the coolest parts of it. It doesn’t matter what the color of your skin is, your political affiliations, or any of the other noise – everyone comes together for one singular goal, which is to have a good time.

That’s just another reason why cruising is really the only way I choose to vacation with my family.

This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind. Head on over.

5 Hidden Gems on a Cruise

When Carnival offered to take my family on an 8-day cruise to the eastern Caribbean, I was super excited. The great food, warm weather, and relaxing atmosphere are just a few of the things that I looked forward to. But then a strange thing happened once I got onboard the beautiful Carnival Sunshine.

There was more that I didn’t even know about.

Like most Carnival ships, the Sunshine is absolutely huge. It’s actually like riding on a floating city. Because of its immense size, it can be easy to miss some good stuff. No worries, my friend – that’s what I’m here for.

Here are 5 of my favorite hidden gems on a Carnival Cruise.

#1 – The Library Bar: Want to relax in a quiet setting? The Library Bar is the place to go. Read a book, enjoy a drink from the state-of-the-art self-serve wine dispensers, or challenge a friend to a game of chess. It’s one of the best places on the ship to visit when you’re looking for a “Zen moment.”

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#2 – Hasbro the Game Show: Growing up, we all played Hasbro board games, right? Can you imagine how cool it would be if you could play giant versions of Simon, Sorry!, and other classic games? It’s pretty cool, because I did it during my cruise – and I had no idea it existed until the final days of my cruise.

It’s an absolute blast as you can team up with your kids, your friends, or rock it by yourself.

I mean, Connect 4 basketball?! Where do I sign up?

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#3 – Adults Only Serenity Deck: Yes, we all love our kids. Now that we’ve gotten that disclaimer out of the way, there are times when grown folks need to be around other grown folks. The adults-only serenity deck provides that calming feeling every parent dreams about during the daily hustle and bustle back home. Grab a book, swing on a hammock, enjoy a cold beverage, and celebrate life.

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#4 – Mixology classes: Sure, you may be the type who enjoys a nice fruity beverage while on the ship (I know that I do), but what if you want to learn how to make them professionally?

Carnival offers these cool mixology courses where you can learn to make some fancy drinks on your own. I had a blast, but man – it wasn’t easy. Just check out my experience below.

 

 

 

 

#5 – Karaoke:

You can’t say you’ve truly enjoyed a vacation unless you’ve done some karaoke. I had the pleasure of leading a live band in some songs and it was so much fun. No matter how you feel about karaoke (and I absolutely love it), it’s a great way to bring people together and have a blast in the process. I had no clue that it existed, but I’m glad I took the plunge. See for yourself!

 

 

 

 

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Cruising is absolutely amazing, but discovering the hidden gems makes it so much fun. How many more hidden gems are out there that I have yet to discover? I can’t wait to find out on my next Carnival cruise!

This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind. Head on over.


The 5 Best Things I Ate On My Cruise

When Carnival offered to take my family on an 8-day cruise to the eastern Caribbean, I jumped all over it. Sure, seeing beautiful sights and enjoying the great weather are wonderful perks, but do you want to know what I was most excited about?

The food.

Carnival doesn’t mess around when it comes to food options and there is literally something for everyone. Like I said before, if I had to attach a percentage to it, I’d say that 75% of the time we were awake on the ship, we were putting some yummy goodness into our mouths.

Here are five of my favorite things I ate on the ship.

#1 – Chicken Parmesan from Cucina Del Capitano: Look, this is not your run-of-the-mill chicken parmesan. It absolutely melted in my mouth and I still can’t get over how fantastic it was. I consider myself to be a pretty good cook and I spent months trying to duplicate the recipe, but failed miserably. All I know is I can’t wait for my next cruise to experience a second helping.

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Also, the ambiance of the restaurant was amazing – and at times I completely forgot that I was on a ship floating in the middle of the ocean. If Italian food is your thing and you’re planning to cruise with Carnival, then you absolutely need to eat here. You won’t be sorry.

#2 – All of the burgers at Guy’s Burger Joint: Are juicy burgers up your alley? Then Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint is for you. No frozen fast food burgers here. Everything is freshly made and prepared Guy’s way, or in a fashion that works for you. This spot was extremely popular on the beautiful Carnival Sunshine, and rightfully so. I can’t remember the last time I ate such a tasty burger.

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#3 – Green eggs and ham at the Seuss at Sea breakfast: Without question, this was my daughters’ favorite. I’ve read countless Dr. Seuss books to them and to see the characters come to life was absolutely amazing for them (and for all of the kiddos onboard the ship).

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But the food was on point, too. The green eggs and ham were so tasty, and my kids kept asking for more. Carnival definitely gets an A+ for making that breakfast experience so fun and memorable. My girls are still asking when they’ll see Thing 1 and Thing 2 again.

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#4 – The 24-hour pizza and ice cream on the Lido Deck: I could pretty much stop there, but I’ll keep going and ask, “Is anything better than 24-hour pizza and ice cream??” I think not.

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I lost count of how many times I went there to grab a late-night bite for my wife and me while the kids were sleeping. Not to mention, with salads, Asian cuisine, deli options, etc., there’s something for everyone on the Lido Deck. Needless to say, we spent a lot of time there.

#5 – The steak in the dining room: The dining room food was amazing, but I truly enjoyed the steak. Again, the quality of it and the atmosphere made you forget that you were floating in the ocean. But if steak isn’t your thing, Carnival does an amazing job of offering diverse menu options to satisfy the pickiest eaters of any family.

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Best of all, it gave my family an opportunity to dress up and look nice. That part alone made it memorable.On one of the formal nights, my daughter and I took some professional photos with Carnival’s photographers, and one of those photos was chosen to be on “The Wall Frame of Fame.” That was a pretty cool moment.

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Cruising is absolutely amazing and I loved every moment of it, but when I look back on what I remembered the most, without question it was the food. I’ll put my cooking skills up against most dads, but there was no way I could duplicate the epic grub Carnival served up. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try to make some green eggs and ham for my daughters.

 

This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind. Head on over.

The Biggest Kid On The Ship

“Yes, you have to eat your vegetables before you have dessert.”

“No, you shouldn’t ride your little sister around the living room as if she’s a horse.”

“Yes, you have to wear pants/shorts to school.”

This is just a sample of the things I’ve said to my kids on a given day. Daddying (yes, I made it a verb) is often extremely exhausting. Our kids are constantly testing the boundaries of our patience and sanity, and every sentence seemingly starts with us saying, “stop” and ends with us counting to three.

When I find myself staring at the ceiling in my bed after a long day of said daddying, I find myself wondering, “Man, I just want to be a kid again.” Don’t get me wrong, I love being a dad – but a dude needs a time out from all of the craziness and responsibilities every now and then.

That’s when Carnival came to save the day.

They offered to take my family on an 8-day eastern Caribbean cruise and I was super excited about it. Granted, I knew that true daddying never ceases, but at least I could let my hair down (wait, I don’t have any hair…searching for a comparable metaphor) err, kick back a bit and be a kid myself.

The best part about it is I found that being silly and carefree while on the beautiful Carnival Sunshine helped strengthen my already strong bond with my two young daughters.

So how did I pull it off?

First off, I wasn’t such a stickler when it came to dining. I told my girls that we were all operating on a “SeeFood Diet.” In other words – if you see food, you can eat it. Carnival could not be better in that regard, because the meal choices are plentiful and delicious.

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I left my Veggie Police badge at home, and nobody was happier about that than my daughters. There were days when we ate pizza for breakfast and ice cream at 10:00pm.

Why did we do it? For the same reason that anyone does anything.

Because we could. The Carnival Sunshine has 24-hour pizza and ice cream onboard. Needless to say, that perk alone made it the best vacation ever for them (and for countless other kids on the ship, I’m guessing). And yes, I was one of those kids who enjoyed every bite.

Next up, we played games. Lots and lots of games. On sea days, we always found ourselves in the arcade. My daughters were so excited to have me play the games with them. I wasn’t a passive observer while they ran around like crazy – I was in the trenches as well. The smiles were nonstop, because as I mentioned before <insert link to previous post> creating memories with our kids is one of the most valuable exercises we can take part in as parents.

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Finally we posed for silly photos. I wanted my daughters to know that I can take a break from being serious and be a complete clown. Even the Cat In the Hat didn’t know how to react to us.

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I’m so incredibly thankful for having the opportunity to find my inner-kid again on that Carnival cruise because it made me become a better dad when I got home. Things that mattered so much beforehand didn’t matter as much anymore.

The kids skipped a serving of veggies? Big deal. They’ll survive.

The kids want to wrestle each other? Big deal. That’s what kids do. As long as they’re safe, I’m okay with it.

The kids don’t want to wear pants or shorts to school? Sorry, that’s just too bad. They need to learn that some things in life are non-negotiable.

Just like I’ve learned that being a kid myself at times is non-negotiable if I want to live a happy and balanced life.

This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind. Head on over.

Memories Are Greater Than Stuff

Before I became a dad, I met a couple in Los Angeles that loved traveling. Almost every month they visited a new place, and I was completely fascinated by them. No, they weren’t two rich, childless people who had nothing but money and free time to spend. We’re talking about an everyday, middle class couple with two young children.

One weekend they would take the kids to San Francisco. Another weekend they would drive to Arizona. When they wanted to go all out on a vacation, they would take a family cruise to an exotic location. But here’s the thing: all of this costs money. How could this typical all-American family afford to travel so much?

And that’s exactly what I asked them.

The dad looked at me and smiled, “Because we only spend our money on creating memories. We don’t have the newest gadgets, cable television, or fancy cars – but the time we spend together while traveling is so incredibly valuable. As a parent you’ll realize that memories are greater than stuff.”

Memories are greater than stuff. I’ll never forget that line. Why? Because it’s so true.

Now that I’m a dad, I splurge less on stuff and more on creating memories. I mean, think about it – will our kids remember that we bought them $20 shoes instead of $120 shoes? Or will they remember that we used the money we saved to go an amazing vacation? I can’t speak for everyone, but I can’t remember what kind of clothes or shoes I wore when I was a kid, but I remember every family vacation as vividly as I remember what I ate for breakfast this morning. That’s because the strongest memories are forged through strong emotions (happiness, love, fear, sadness, etc.)

When Carnival offered to take my family on an 8-day eastern Caribbean cruise, I didn’t hesitate to say “yes” because I knew the opportunity to create lifelong memories with my family would be there. Speaking of strong emotions, I remember how freaked out my daughter was when I asked her to go down the waterslide on the beautiful Carnival Sunshine.

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After a few hugs and a pep talk from Daddy, she finally decided to go down the kiddie slide and was completely overjoyed afterwards.

The noteworthy part of this story is my daughter still talks about that experience and smiles when she thinks of the fun she had on that cruise. Do you think she (or any kid) would remember anything about the stuff we buy them? Probably not. And if they did, the emotions evoked wouldn’t compare to the emotions that come from the things we do with them.

Memories are greater than stuff.

I’m thankful for that man who gave me such a valuable piece of advice as I navigate through the oftentimes crazy world of parenting. If there’s a downside to all of this, it’s that my daughter constantly asks when we will go on another cruise to create some more memories. But hey, that’s the price you have to pay when you’re having fun.

This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind. Head on over.


Facing Fears

You know that I’m afraid of frogs, but there’s another fear that I share with my daughter. Here’s how I helped her get over it. #CarnivalPartner

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